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DIY or die: How an Australian outback nurse diagnosed his own heart attack and saved his life

Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

He notes that patients living within a two-hour drive to a hospital will more likely have their electrocardiogram read while they're en route in an ambulance, and have their plaques removed by a clot-retrieving device rather than dissolved with tenecteplase. Even in remote parts of the United States, emergency medical technicians, emergency physicians and cardiologists are devising ways to speed the clearance of coronary arteries blocked by clots and plaques.

But the Australian nurse's speed and resourcefulness can be inspirational to the rest of us, Osborne says.

Know your family history and minimize your risks by quitting smoking and treating high blood pressure, worrisome cholesterol and diabetes.

When you suspect something's wrong (or have any of these symptoms), don't wait.

"If you have chest pain, call 911," Osborne says. "Get it done. You make the wrong call, you die."

Follow the Australian nurse's example and chew a full-strength aspirin (325 milligrams). This is a recommended first step for patients who believe they're suffering a heart attack.

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Driving home the urgency of acting quickly on heart attack symptoms, Osborne offers these facts:

-- In half of men and two-thirds of women, the first symptom of heart disease is death.

-- In 2018, strokes and heart attacks will account for 40 percent of deaths in the United States -- and closer to 75 percent of deaths among those with diabetes.

-- Someone in the U.S. will die of stroke or heart attack every 40 seconds.


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